Disney Christmas ad highlighting Filipino culture, traditions receives positive response

By Arvin Joaquin, OMNI News Filipino, and Hana Mae Nassar

A touching new advertisement released by Disney UK and that features a Filipino family has hearts warming around the world.

The Christmas ad, titled “From our Family to Yours,” was shared on social media on Monday and highlights a story centred around the relationship between a granddaughter, or an apo, and her grandmother, or lola, that was “really entrenched in the Filipino culture.”

“It was really this progression over time and that time was multi-faceted,” Joshua Forsman, general manager of Flux Animations, tells OMNI News Filipino.

The video begins in a neighbourhood in the Philippines in the year 1940.

The opening scene shows a man walking through the streets before he is met by a young child, who runs up and jumps into his arms, closely followed by a woman.

The child grabs the man’s hand and presses it to her forehead, something that is done in Filipino culture to show respect to elders, before she is given a Mickey Mouse doll.

Traditions that are shared by Filipino cultures and others around the world

The ad transitions to a different city and a different time — 2005. Despite the characters now finding themselves in a European-looking landscape, the story still focuses on the importance tradition plays — both in the Philippines and elsewhere around the world.

From the relationship between a grandchild and her lola, to gift giving, passing on heirlooms, and the making of parols, which are Christmas lanterns, the video encompasses a number of traditions shared not just by Filipinos, but by many around the world.

“And really showing how those kind of traditions are really timeless. It can be the traditions of, obviously, handing down cherished items like the Mickey Mouse was in this case, and also handing down those kind of skills that you develop and really only are passed down through word of mouth, and that’s kind of a really key relationship I definitely have with my grandparents and one that we really try to channel and portray in this story,” Forsman explains.

He says Disney came to Flux Animations with the concept.

“The big challenge with this campaign was that it needed to go to multiple different regions, so we didn’t have the reliance on dialogue that we normally do to kind of help deliver that narrative and that sort of art. So our challenge was really, how do we do that with crafted characters that felt distinct through this campaign, and then also how we can sort of show that kind of energy and change of tone as the script went on through body language,” Forsman adds.

Working through a pandemic

The ad comes at a difficult time, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and as many areas re-enter lockdowns due to a spike in cases.

Forsman says Flux began its production just as New Zealand was entering its own lockdown in the spring. Through a global effort, he says, his team was able to pull together to put the special video together.

“There was always someone working at some point in the night, somewhere in the world. And that really allowed us to stay really fluid and get to the final result, which we’re really, really excited with,” he tells OMNI Television.

‘Thank you for seeing us’: Positive response online

Through script development, production, and release, Forsman says his team had a few goals.

Apart from a major film, he says work on the Disney UK ad was likely the largest-scale production for his studio.

“The mano po. The parol. The Simbang Gabi. The brown skin color. The tin can of sewing materials. I’M SOBBING THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL,” @heyhersheyy writes on Twitter in response to the video.

(Simbang Gabi is a series of church masses practiced by Filipinos in the lead up to Christmas.)

Others describe their emotional responses after watching the video, one person writing “Tears are falling.”

Many social media users also applauded the ad for finally depicting someone like them.

“I grew up watching #Disney but I never saw myself on it,” @thebountywriter writes. “I always felt like they didn’t know we existed and now at 24 I find myself sobbing at the #DisneyChristmasAd2020 it showed a culture I grew up in, a place I was familiar with and a language I spoke. Thank you for seeing us.”

Forsman says Flux’s goal was to put out the best product possible, while also “living up to that amazing storytelling heritage that Disney have.”

“It’s always scary when things go out onto the internet. So, we definitely were refreshing as comments started to come in. But I think one thing that we love so much in particular was the overwhelming encouragement and excitement from the Filipino community,” he says, adding he’s been throALSugh hundreds of positive comments.

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